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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Burrito Deluxe
Label: Luna Chica Records
Length: 13 tracks/45:54
Burrito Deluxe is a new group of veteran musicians with decades of experience. The best known member is keyboard ace Garth Hudson, formerly of The Band. Sneaky Pete Kleinow first came to prominence as a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers and his pedal steel guitar work made him a first-call session musician. Some of you may remember the Amazing Rhythm Aces - one of that band’s founders, Jeff “Stick’ Davis, handles the bass chores. Drummer Rick Lonow has worked with a wide variety of musicians ranging from the late Johnny Cash to Tommy Tutone.
The key member of the group is guitarist Carlton Moody who doubles as the lead vocalist. He has a versatile voice that alternately oozes country charm or grit but is always easy on the ears. Moody’s vocal contributions separate this recording from the rest of the pack. He is one of the finest singers I have heard recently.
This is an enhanced disc includes brief live clips of the band and short interview segments with each band member. Drummer Lonow states that the band “..is a group of musical wierdos.” That overstates things a bit but there are lots of musical influences at work here. Being a veteran group, Burrito Deluxe doesn’t have the need to show off their instrumental chops.
One highlight is the tough rocking “Memphis Money” featuring Hudson’s swirling work on piano and the Hammond organ. Moody sings with a harder edge--and I love the “twang” that sneaks into his voice every time he sings the word “Memphis.” “A Woman Like You” has a reggae beat and more fine organ work from Hudson, who breaks out his accordion for a good-time feel on “Zydeco Bar.”
Moody had a hand in writing “Everywhere I Go” which has a ominous sounding musical track that would seem to be at odds with the soaring vocal harmonies from Moody, Davis and Lonow about lost love. The band addresses the effects of war with “Last Letter Home”, which describes the longing of a wounded Confederate cavalryman for his beloved, surrounded by his comrades who “…lay like Georgia peaches, bruised and broken on the ground”. Sneaky Pete’s steel guitar sounds a call of hope over the military drumbeat.
The disc features one of those tunes that gets into your head on first listen and refuses to leave. You walk around humming the melody and singing the chorus to yourself as family and friends begin to wonder about your mental health. Fortunately “Baton Rouge” is a bouncy song worth remembering. Moody’s singing will have you convinced that Louisiana is the place to be as Hudson punctuates the arrangement with more accordion work with a Tex-Mex flavor.
I admit to being under whelmed the first time I heard The Whole Enchilada. Subsequent listens have revealed new pleasures on this true group collaboration. Quality production, a strong song list, excellent instrumental work that accents--not dominate--the arrangements, and the outstanding vocals of Carlton Moody make this disc a real treat. If you like country rock or just good old fine music, you should find plenty to enjoy with Burrito Deluxe.
Mark Thompson 1/4/2005